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We are less than a month away from Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. Summer is the time when we usually experience the highest incidents of respiratory illness in dogs: CIRDC, Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex or canine cough. How do dogs get it? From other dogs that have been infected.

All of us are now familiar with terms like asymptomatic patients and breakthrough infections, because of the Covid pandemic. At the ranch, we have strict protocols in place to try and prevent dogs from getting infected with canine cough. We require vaccines, but vaccines cannot prevent all infections. We watch for symptoms in dogs, but some dogs are asymptomatic. We do not accept dogs from outside our area, to reduce the risk that dogs are exposed to conditions that might exist elsewhere in the country. And we have our 14 day rule.

Dogs can be exposed to a number of pathogens that cause respiratory illness and often, when dogs do get sick, there is more than one of them involved. The primary culprit might be a virus with secondary infections being bacterial. The vet can prescribe antibiotics, but these do not affect the viral component. Dogs can catch canine cough from the dog next door or a dog they meet on a walk, but the biggest risks exist where numerous dogs gather: at the groomer, in a training class, at the dog park and, yes, doggie daycare. Dogs catch the bug and within 3 to 10 days (the incubation period), they start showing symptoms. Therefore, our 14 day rule states that everyone who took their dog to one of the above mentioned gathering places, waits 14 days before they bring their dog to us, if they are symptom free. The only exception we have is the vet’s office, because dogs do need veterinary care.

Of course we cannot confirm if a dog coming to us has been somewhere else in the last 14 days. It is an honor system, just like you would isolate yourself if you were in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid or if you got a positive test result. One dog can spread respiratory illness to a large number of other dogs, bringing misery to those dogs and their owners and a financial loss to us because of dogs that cannot attend daycare.

Once you know that your dog is sick, keep him home at least 10 to 14 days after the cough has subsided. If you do not know what canine cough sounds like, there are several YouTube videos available. Some describe it as a goose honk. Some people think their dog is choking on something. They think that there is something stuck in their dog’s throat and they fail to recognize that in reality, their dog has canine cough.

As always, if you think your dog came down with something, please let us know as soon as possible, this will help us spot possible trends and alert everyone if something seems to be going around.

P.S Even though I make comparisons with Covid, let me make clear: dogs get canine cough, seldom Covid and there is still no evidence that dogs play a role in spreading Covid. I was just referencing similarities in the mechanics of how disease is transmitted. Just to be clear.

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Dirk Broersma